Monday, January 31, 2011


After the Tucson memorial service, Paul Mirengoff of Power Line wrote a post (since removed but preserved here) that said in part:

As for the "ugly," I'm afraid I must cite the opening "prayer" by Native American Carlos Gonzales. It was apparently was some sort of Yaqui Indian tribal thing, with lots of references to "the creator" but no mention of God. Several of the victims were, as I understand it, quite religious in that quaint Christian kind of way (none, to my knowledge, was a Yaqui). They (and their families) likely would have appreciated a prayer more closely aligned with their religious beliefs.

Mirengoff is a lawyer at the very powerful law firm Akin Gump -- which happens to have a significant American Indian law and policy practice. After Mirengoff published the post, an Akin Gump partner in that American Indian practice criticized it on the firm's Web site and the firm issued an apology from Mirengoff.

Mirengoff no longer blogs at Power Line.

There are a lot of ways you can look at this, but I think one way you have to look at it is the American way: This is America, which means your boss can set all kinds of work rules for you and if you don't like them and they're not specifically enjoined by law, well, tough noogies. And that's what you'd expect the response to be, universally, on the right. Right?

Oh, who am I kidding? Of course that wasn't the response on the right. The response on the right was: One of our guys got mistreated by an employer! Fascism! Totalitarianism!

Here's William Jacobson at Legal Insurrection:

That Mirengoff, to satisfy Meggesto and Akin Gump, confessed to criticising the use of a Yaqui prayer when his post clearly did not do so, speaks volumes to the pressure Mirengoff must have been under.

And then Mirengoff left Power Line. And the post was taken down at Akin Gump's insistence, which reminds me of how Stalin ordered biographies of purged leaders to be removed from encyclopedias across the country.

I can't blame Mirengoff for confessing to sins he never committed.

... I guess the only good news is that Mirengoff was not forced to "name names" to get a more lenient sentence.

And here's Robert Stacy McCain:

... in criticizing that Yaqui prayer at the Tucson memorial, Paul Mirengoff wasn't just being politically incorrect, he was also offending a lucrative segment of Akin Gump's lobbying clientele, whom the firm had recently hired three lawyers to service. Small wonder that Mirengoff was likely forced to choose: Quit blogging at Power Line or quit working at Akin Gump.

Yeah? So? I thought you righties were the uber-defenders of capitalism. How dare you not say: Hell yeah these guys don't want to put a lucrative area of the business at risk! What -- they should lose money and defer to Mirengoff's feelings?

Put the shoe on the other foot. Imagine a lefty lawyer/blogger of the previous decade bashing Bush on a blog even as his/her firm labored to maintain chummy relationships with the Dubya White House. Wouldn't Jacobson and McCain defend to the death the firm's right to press the lawyer to quit blogging? They might even howl for immediate termination and clawback of wages, no?

I don't recall these guys shedding a tear when Jason Levin lost his teaching job, or when Eason Jordan lost his job at CNN. So when they beg me to shed tears for Mirengoff, well, I'm unmoved.

You may already know that Reagan-appointed federal judge Roger Vinson has ruled that the individual-mandate provision of the law violates the Constitution, and asserted that the entire law therefore fails to pass constitutional muster. The law doesn't include a "severability" clause specifically asserting that a court ruling of this kind on one provision won't invalidate the rest of the law, so it was vulnerable to a ruling of this kind.

Now, you and I understand that Vinson's ruling finds fault specifically with this one provision of the law. Fox Nation and Glenn Beck's Blaze hope that, at least on a subconscious level, right-wing readers won't understand that. The headline at Fox Nation:

Federal Judge Rules Entire Health Care Law Unconstitutional

The headline at The Blaze:


And on the Blaze front page:


Maybe I'm overstating the significance of what these headlines imply. But clearly, both sites are trying to create the impression that Vinson believes the entire law violates the Constitution, which is not what he says at all. Given the right-wing fad of trying to wrap oneself in the Constitution, not to mention the right-wing belief that the document was dictated directly by God himself, these sites really want to plant the notion that the law is thoroughly infested with anti-Constitutionalism. Yes, the linked posts do explain what the judge actually said. But the headlines are meant to be meme-makers, I think.

This is a small part of the 24/7 propaganda war, but it's a part nonetheless, I'd say.

Politico tells us that he just made a speech in Israel. It apparently wasn't a particularly alarming speech (he said the situation in Egypt "could threaten the world"), but I notice that said this:

"I cannot imagine as an American being told that I could not live in certain places in America because I was Christian, or because I was white, or because I spoke English. I would be outraged if someone told me that in my country, I would be prohibited and forbidden to live in a part of that country, for any reason."

Um, he does realize that plenty of Americans were legally prohibited from living in certain places in America because of their skin color or religion for the first thirteen years of his life, doesn't he? (And effectively prohibited long after that?)

The Jerusalem Post reports that on this, Huck's 13th visit to Israel, he was accompanied to a cornerstone-laying ceremony at an East Jerusalem cemetery by Jon Voight. (Entertainers in politics? OK if you're a Republican.) Huckabee presumably joined forces with Voight because Voight published this open letter to President Obama in The Washington Times last June:

President Obama:

You will be the first American president that lied to the Jewish people, and the American people as well, when you said that you would defend Israel, the only Democratic state in the Middle East, against all their enemies. You have done just the opposite. You have propagandized Israel, until they look like they are everyone’s enemy -- and it has resonated throughout the world. You are putting Israel in harm’s way, and you have promoted anti-Semitism throughout the world....

For good measure, Voight added in the same letter that the Obama administration's legal actions against the state's 2010 immigration law had "brought to Arizona a civil war."

But don't worry about his friends, because Mike Huckabee is just so nice, isn't he?

Some observers who hoped for more from Sarah Palin after 2008 now find themselves profoundly disappointed, but not this guy:

What do you think of Sarah Palin? Would you consider her for VP?

Love her. Constitution. American citizen. Exercising the right to privacy. Free speech. Haters -- those who don't like Sarah Palin. That's what they are. Sarah Palin: I love you because America gives you the constitutional right to do whatever you want to do as a woman. And people don't think you can do because you're a woman. They try to make a mockery out of you. But you stand up for your rights and stand strong for your rights. And don't let anyone try to cut you down....

Who is that?

Jimmy McMillan of the Rent Is Too Damn High Party, former New York gubernatorial candidate and now a self-described candidate for president of the United States, in an interview for AOL News. (Hat tip: Ben Smith.)

Hmmm ... the percussion bursts in this video do sound like gunshots, don't they? And check out the last image....

Sunday, January 30, 2011


I've said repeatedly that I don't believe Jared Loughner's murderous focus on Gabby Giffords was inspired by right-wing rhetoric -- the guy's delusional and seems far more interested in fringe ideas than left-right politics. I was sure I was going to have a different reaction to this story:

California man arrested with explosives outside Dearborn Islamic center

An ex-Army veteran from California who is accused of driving to Metro Detroit's largest mosque with a trunk full of explosives is behind bars after being charged with making a terrorist threat.

Roger Stockham, 63, is charged with one count of a false report or threat of terrorism and one count of explosives-possession of bombs with unlawful intent after Dearborn police arrested him Monday outside the Islamic Center of America, one the largest mosques in North America....

A guy traveled all the way from California to attack a mosque in the city that right-wingers sneeringly refer to as "Dearbornistan," and which they claim is an epicenter of sharia law? It seemed rather likely that the would-be bomber would turn out to be a right-leaner.

But this story turns out to be not that simple either. In 1979, AP reported that a 32-year-old California man named Roger Stockham was under arrest after seizing his son and making an unsuccessful attempt to hijack a plane and fly it to Iran.

Mr. Stockham was described in that 1979 article as a "Moslem convert."

In 1985, the FBI issued an arrest warrant for 38-year-old Roger Stockham on charges that he planted a pipe bomb at Nevada's Reno-Cannon International Airport. The L.A. Times reported:

Stockham has been treated several times for mental illness. In 1981, he escaped from Patton State Hospital in San Bernardino, but was captured by police and reincarcerated. In July, 1982, a Santa Barbara Superior Court judge ordered Stockham released on probation after a deputy district attorney said he should be freed because "he hasn't done anything crazy lately."

Stockham first made news in 1977, when he held a psychiatrist hostage in a Century City office building, using two bombs and a pistol. After more than four hours, he released the psychiatrist unharmed and surrendered to police.

In 2002, a 55-year-old Vermont man named Roger Stockham was arrested after allegedly threatening to set off a bomb near a VA clinic at Fort Ethan Allen. Two years later, Stockham, having been charged with multiple bomb threats against VA facilities and other targets, was found not guilty by reason of insanity.

So I guess we're dealing with another profoundly mentally ill person.

But I wonder if this guy's belief system has changed since 1979, when he was described as a Muslim. On his MySpace page, under "Who I'd like to meet," he writes, "Immanuel Swedenborg." Swedenborg (whose first name was Emanuel) was a Christian mystic and theologian. Also appearing on the MySpace page: the word "noumenon," possibly a reference to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant.

It's possible that a guy who's not all there might develop an interest in mysticism and philosophy in general.

He might also pick up messages from the media -- perhaps right-wing messages. I don't know. But I'm withholding judgment, given the complexity of the guy's story.

Oh, and the right-wing blogger Jammie Wearing Fool finds the name Roger Stockham among the signers of a pro-Bradley Manning online petition. Same guy? I'm not sure.

Maybe his worldview is a mix of libertarian, right-wing, and paranoid -- an Alex Jones sort of stew. Or the story could be more complicated than that. But, given this guy's past, I'm not going to rush to blame wingnut demagogues. And I really want to know why the guy stayed free or so long.

Funny thing -- if you were to believe some of what we've heard about the tea party movement since its inception, you'd expect that one of the messages we'd be hearing loud and clear right now from the tea-saturated GOP is old-school noninterventionism wth regard to Egypt and the other Muslim nations experiencing unrest. After all, we're told on a regular basis that the teabaggers aren't with the imperialist program of the Bush/Cheney GOP -- hey, there was Rand Paul a couple of days ago calling for an end to U.S. foreign aid, including aid to Israel (and, clearly, the Mubarak regime in Egypt as well). We hear that the teabaggers are skeptical about intervention in general and don't consider the Pentagon budget sacrosanct.

And that should be a big deal, right? After all, as Politico noted this week, mainstream Republicans now seem to be afraid to criticize teabaggers such as Michele Bachmann. As Frank Rich notes today, Bachmann stole Paul Ryan's thunder (if "thunder" is the right word for it) with her rogue response to the State of the Union address, and, as Kate Zernike notes elsewhere in today's New York Times, teabaggers are redoubling their efforts to oust pretty much any incumbent Republican who's ever voted with the Democrats on anything -- targets in 2012 include not just Olympia Snowe but Orrin Harch and Richard Lugar, and the 'baggers are working to agree on challengers to these deviants from Correct Thinking so they'll be certain to defeat them.

But, um, I don't notice the tea types putting this kind of pressure on the GOP establishment with regard to foreign policy. There seem to be two strains of Republican thought, to be sure -- Obama sucks because he's not pro-rebel enough and Obama sucks because he's not pro-Mubarak enough -- with the latter line gradually gaining ground.

The notion that teabaggers (or at least teabaggers not surnamed Paul) have ever been all that serious about rethinking the national security state has always seemed absurd. These folks are Republicans, for heaven's sake; no notion appeals to them more than identifying figures of (allegedly) undiluted and seemingly unstoppable evil and fantasizing that these evil figures can be thwarted with no moral compromise and no collateral damage to any good people.

I think the teabaggers are just going to fall in line with the notion that evil Obama is weakening our alliance with a crucial ally and creating an opening for the Egyptian opposition, which increasingly, in the righties' telling, isn't a broad range of actors at all, but basically consists of nothing but the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. You can do one-stop shopping for this line of thinking by going to this post at Sister Toldjah's blog, which collects choice links quoting John Bolton ("You just mentioned the Suez Canal, how would you like the Muslim Brotherhood in charge of that waterway?"), Michael Ledeen (who says Obama's failure was not urging Mubarak and Ben-Ali and the like to be less tyrannical, a bit of advice I'm sure he never offered when a Republican was in power), and Stratfor (a report that Hamas forces are being allowed to enter Egypt is quoted; Stratfor's caveat that this report comes from a Hamas source, and that Hamas has a vested interest in exaggerating its role in this crisis, isn't quoted -- what a surprise).

Teabaggers say they care about "limited government" -- but they care much more about smiting. They'll fall in line with this, or with whatever the GOP mainstream offers as a subsequent narrative of Muslims and U.S. Democrats who jointly want to destroy America.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


Egypt is in flames, and Republicans are reacting in their usual fashion: How can we take political advantage of this? In England, The Telegraph, a paper that's been exceedingly friendly to the GOP and the American right, is declaring that the U.S. government secretly backed Egyptian dissidents in the Bush era -- the principal piece of evidence for this being an effort to bring one (1) Egyptian anti-government activi to America for a U.S. sponsored conference. Oh, and the Bushies also pressed Hosni Mubarak to release other dissidents from prison. And American diplomats heard about a plan to overthrow the government, according to a cable dated three weeks before Bush left office. This The Telegraph describes as "America's secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising" -- as if Bush made all this happen.

Simultaneously, Elliott Abrams has taken to the Washington Post op-ed page to write "Egypt Protests Show George W. Bush Was Right About Freedom in the Arab World." See, he said those people could rebel and create lovely pro-Western democratic governments -- and now, seven or eight years laters, look what's happening! Yay! Bush wins!

(Of course, Bush always blithely suggested that upheaval in these nations would inevitably lead to regimes that were democratic, moderate, and tolerant. In reality, right now we have no idea what's going to result from any of the current unrest. But that's not going to prevent Abrams from prematurely claiming vindication.)


And just in case everything actually does go sour, there's this bit of bet-hedging from a House Republican:

GOP Conference chairman Thaddeus McCotter voiced his support for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Friday in a statement released on his website.

The Republican congressman from Michigan likened demonstrations in Egypt to "Iran's 1979 radical revolution." He cautions that those who "will be tempted to superficially interpret the Egyptian demonstrations as an uprising for populist democracy" should instead "recall how such similar initial views of the 1979 Iranian Revolution were belied by the mullahs' radical jackbooted murderers."

McCotter, the chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee, called for America to back Egypt....

I should note that McCotter can be a bit contrarian when he thinks fellow Republicans are going wobbly with regard to America's enemies -- past or president. In 2008, in his inimitable prose style, McCotter wrote this about the upcoming Beijing Olympics:

...No starker episode exhibits our anile need for a moral hospice before we slither into the dust bin of history than the one playing out before Americans' astonished eyes. Legacy building with the urgency of a dying Pharaoh staring at an unfinished Sphinx, George Walker Bush is bent upon being the first U.S. President to attend a foreign nation's Olympics. The nation in question is communist China, the shock troops of which are presently bludgeoning Tibetan Monks as if they were orange bathrobed baby seals. (One shudders at the prospect this Tibetan repression is the Chi-coms' sedulous sally into Olympic demonstration sports.)...

McCotter is also a frequent guest on Dennis Miller's radio show and Fox's Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld. I'm sure he'll have more to say about this subject in future media appearances.

Friday, January 28, 2011


On Fox News a couple of nights ago, Sarah Palin said that what America needs is not a "Sputnik moment" but a "Spudnut moment" -- a quip that was meant to be a clever way of championing private industry over government spending, but that came off as infantile. Unable, as usual, to walk away from a fight, Palin takes to Facebook to defend what she said -- and, well, she's not getting out of the hole with her further attempts at digging:

...Now, in a recent interview I mentioned analogies that could relate to solutions to our economic challenges, including the difference between a communist government's "Sputnik" and the private sector's "Spudnut." The analogies I mentioned obviously aren't comparable in size, but highlight a clear difference in economic focus: big government command and control economies vs. America’s small businesses.

If you're near Richland, WA, you should stop by The Spudnut Shop, where you'll find an all-American success story of a family owned small business that for over 60 years has been serving up a product that people want to buy. Businesses like this coffee shop don't receive big government bailouts. They produce something with their own ingenuity and hard work....

So we go to her link -- and this is what we see (emphasis added):

... The Spudnut Shop was established in 1948 by my dad, Barlow Ghirardo, and my uncle, Jerry Bell. With one $50 check, they bought a franchise and 100 sacks of Spudnut flour. The shop was originally located in the Richland Wye and operated primarily as a wholesale business. When the highway was built in 1950, The Spudnut Shop moved to its present location in Uptown Richland....

So this Spudnuts shop is just a plucky little small business ... that's thrived for half a century after parking itself next to a highway newly built with government money. (SEE UPDATE BELOW.) This happened at the dawn of a golden age for the American middle class -- a golden age made possible to a large extent by progressive taxation, and by such programs as the interstate highway system, the GI Bill, and the FHA.

Oh, and as Wikipedia notes in reference to the shop's location:

Richland was a small farm town until the US Army purchased ... 640 sq mi ... along the Columbia River for the war effort.... The army turned it into a bedroom community for the workers on its Manhattan Project facility at the nearby Hanford Engineering Works (now the Hanford [nuclear] site). The population increased from 300 in July and August 1943 to 25,000 by the end of World War II in August 1945....

When the Soviet Union developed and tested their first nuclear weapon in 1949, the U.S. nuclear program was reinvigorated. A second post-WW II expansion began in 1950 as a result of the war in Korea. Richland's Cold War construction boom resulted in Richland's population growing to 27,000 people by 1952....

Richland's financial dependency on the federal Hanford facility changed little [subsequently] because Hanford's mission as a weapons materials production site continued during the Cold War years.

This is Sarah Palin's shining example of the glories of private enterprise and the disastrous economic consequences brought on by government spending. Right, Sarah. Got it.

You just make it too easy, Sarah.


UPDATE: A commenter tells me that I misunderstood the reference to the highway:

I grew up in Richland, so I feel the need to correct a portion of your article.

While it is true that the entire town wouldn't exist without government spending on the Hanford project, your interpretation of the highway issue is wrong. The Spudnut shop would have had to have been moved from its old location because the built a highway where it used to be. It was subsequently located in an area near downtown Richland away from the highway. It didn't move to a highway, it was forced to move because of a highway.

My error. But I stand by what I said about the nature of the town and the importance of government to its economic health.

You've probably seen this story (via Steve Benen):

... For years, federal laws restricting the use of government funds to pay for abortions have included exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.... But the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act," a bill with 173 mostly Republican co-sponsors that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) has dubbed a top priority in the new Congress, contains a provision that would rewrite the rules to limit drastically the definition of rape and incest in these cases.

With this legislation, which was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Republicans propose that the rape exemption be limited to "forcible rape." This would rule out federal assistance for abortions in many rape cases, including instances of statutory rape, many of which are non-forcible. For example: If a 13-year-old girl is impregnated by a 24-year-old adult, she would no longer qualify to have Medicaid pay for an abortion....

One reason this appears to be happening is that it's a common belief in the anti-abortion crowd that pregnancy from forcible rape simply doesn't happen, or happens so rarely that limiting taxpayer abortion funding to cases of forcible rape would effectively eliminate all such funding.

An anti-abortion article at a site called the Bible Study Page puts the case bluntly:

Statutory rape is usually not forcible rape. Any girl seventeen or younger who has had intercourse can be classified as having been raped. The idea being, she was too young to give legitimate consent.

A study done by J. Kuchera for the Journal of the American Medical Association states,
A scientific study of 1,000 cases of rape treated medically right after the rape results in zero cases of pregnancy.{12}
There you have it, like a dead dog in your front yard, facts are facts. Rape is not an issue, nor should it be an issue of much importance when discussing the abortion question.

(In fact, the study in question said pregnancy never resulted in this group among women given the morning-after pill -- and, in fact, Dr. Kuchera later said some raped women studied did become pregnant. The source for the Bible Study Page's misinformation is a book titled Abortion: The American Holocaust.)

Here, at a site called Christian Life Resources, we're told that forcible rape sometimes causes pregnancy, but such cases are rare. This is from a 1999 article by John C. Willke, M.D., in Life Issues Connector (Willke seems to be the anti-abortion movement's go-to guy on this):

First, let's define the term "rape." When pro-lifers speak of rape pregnancies, we should commonly use the phrase "forcible rape" or "assault rape," for that specifies what we're talking about. Rape can also be statutory. Depending upon your state law, statutory rape can be consensual, but we're not addressing that here....

Assault rape
pregnancies are extremely rare. Most pro-lifers have heard this comment, but too often cannot back it up with facts....

How many rape pregnancies are there? The answer is that, according to statistical reporting, there are no more than one or two pregnancies resultant from every 1,000 forcible rapes.

That's a very low rate -- one or two tenths of a percent. According to Dr. Willke, this is for a scientific reason:

Finally, factor in what is certainly one of the most important reasons why a rape victim rarely gets pregnant, and that's physical trauma. Every woman is aware that stress and emotional factors can alter her menstrual cycle. To get and stay pregnant a woman's body must produce a very sophisticated mix of hormones. Hormone production is controlled by a part of the brain that is easily influenced by emotions. There's no greater emotional trauma that can be experienced by a woman than an assault rape. This can radically upset her possibility of ovulation, fertilization, implantation and even nurturing of a pregnancy. So what further percentage reduction in pregnancy will this cause? No one knows, but this factor certainly cuts this last figure by at least 50 percent and probably more.

So see? Rape is so stressful you probably can't get pregnant.

Over here, Dr. Willke and his wife reiterate these statistics.

What do reputable scientists say? In 2007 -- yes, when Bush was president -- the Centers for Disease Control (PDF) cited this 1996 study, which estimates that approximately 32,000 pregnancies a year result from rape, and that about 5% of rapes end in pregnancy.

I suppose that if the anti-abortion movement could succeed in selling its line to the public, it could then argue that a pregnancy resulting from a rape couldn't be from a rape, because, well, rapes just don't cause pregnancy. And that may be where all this is headed.

Right-wingers are having a lovely chuckle over news that Joe Biden has said that Hosni Mubarak isn't a dictator -- but really, how long can it be before the righties decide that all this anti-government activity isn't tea party-esque at all, but is actually a very, very evil thing?

As The New York Times reports, a driving force behind the recent series of revolts is the demonic Al Jazeera. A hero of the Egyptian protesters is the despised former Iraq nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei (or as Hot Air refers to him, adding an additional charge, "Iranian nuclear apologist Mohamed ElBaradei"). Can the Dennis Miller jokes be far behind? Is it going to get all 2003 in here?

I suppose the spin is going to be that the revolutions were good, but the outcomes (if change happens and isn't to the righties' liking) are bad, and it's all Obama's fault. The subtext of that will be that any leader who falls should be replaced by someone who (as the saying goes) is a sonofabitch, but is our sonofabitch. Of course, that's been our Middle Eastern policy in many countries for a good long while now, and we're seeing the results. But any outcome the right doesn't like will all be laid at Obama's feet, won't it?

Jay Carney, as you probably know, has been named White House press secretary. Here's a summary of his career so far:

OCCUPATION: Incoming White House press secretary. Currently communications director for Vice President Joe Biden, since January 2009.

CAREER: Time magazine Washington bureau chief, 2005-2008; Time assistant bureau chief in Washington, 2003-2005; Time reporter in Washington, 1993-2003; Time reporter in Moscow, 1990-1993; Time Miami bureau chief, 1989-90; Reporter for Miami Herald, 1987-1988.

Now, here's Fox Nation's spin:

I speak wingnut, so I'll translate: new press secretary for commie president used to report in a commie country for a commie magazine.

Not all the commenters respond on cue, but many hear the Pavlov bell ("This guy was in Russia, so he will fit in fine with the Socialist/Communists in the White House and on the Liberal media"; "HOW MANY COMMIES CAN YOU PUT IN ONE WHITEHOUSE?").

The ultimate insult, years ago, was "liberal," then that was replace by "socialist," then Glenn Beck took that to another level. And clearly, at Fox, it's not just Beck. I wonder how soon this line of thinking will show up in the GOP Congress -- I wouldn't be surprised to see hearings on Marxist-Leninist infiltration into the White House.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Ad I pulled off a political site today:

OK, I see from the site for the show that it's from some of the people responsible for shows such as The Shield and Big Love. And it does star Jennifer Beals, fresh off The L Word. So it probably had a good chance of getting on the air no matter what.

But, um, what are the most prominent parts of this ad, and of the title banner on the site? Why, a black guy described as "corrupt," right near the word "Chicago." Now, why would a Rupert Murdoch media property find this appealing? Gee, let me think....

Will it surprise you if I say that, according to the site, the corrupt guy (played by Delroy Lindo) is a politician? Yes, just an alderman (and an ex-businessman) -- we don't want to be too obvious about this, do we? -- but still, a sleazy pol from Chitown with extra melanin. For Fox fans, what on earth could that possibly bring to mind?

Another curious fact is that the show used to be called The Ride-Along -- in fact, a preview for the show went up on YouTube last spring under that title:

But Fox -- for reasons one can only guess at -- thought The Chicago Code was a better title. (You don't suppose it's believed that anyone anywhere else in the Fox media empire might someday use the phrase "the Chicago Code" in other contexts, do you?)

Here's a more recent preview:

Curious -- it's a shorter promo than the earlier one, but the corrupt black pol shows up in more scenes. What are the odds?

And yet in the show he still seems like a minor character. You wouldn't know that from the Fox ad above, though. Can't wait to see how the actual story develops.

But I'm guessing one thing: this show will be renewed, and will stay on the air at least through, oh, late fall 2012.

John Boehner goes on CNN's Parker Spitzer and he and Kathleen Parker agree that President Obama's State of the Union address fell short in its invocations of American exceptionalism. This is transparently untrue, as Greg Sargent notes:

[Obama] did describe America as "the greatest nation on Earth." ... Obama also said: "For all the naysayers predicting our decline, America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world."

... Obama said: "We are the first nation to be founded for the sake of an idea -- the idea that each of us deserves the chance to shape our own destiny."

Obama also said: "What we can do -- what America does better than anyone else -- is spark the creativity and imagination of our people." The key phrase there is "better than anyone else."

Greg shakes his head in wonderment:

What's amusing about this ongoing assertion from the right is how easily debunked it is, and how casually its proponents simply pretend that the historical record doesn't exist.

"Amusing" isn't the word I'd use -- it's standard right-wing operating procedure, and it works for them.

Once right-wing propagandists have successfully seized on some bits of empirical evidence, however flimsy, and woven them into a damning meme about a liberal or Democrat (damning, that is, if you believe it), they simply know that they can keep repeating the meme no matter what happens afterward and it will be believed, not only by the right-wing faithful but by quite a few stray swing voters who've been brought around by endless repeats of the meme by conservative bloviators and by right-wing friends and neighbors at backyard barbecues.

What's going to discredit such a meme in the eyes of these believers? A Greg Sargent blog post, and maybe a few other blog posts, and perhaps a New York Times op-ed or two, plus a mention halfway through a Matt Bai think piece, plus a couple of segments on MSNBC? That's supposed to be enough to counter a tale pounded into people's heads day after day, 24/7, in the wingnut media?

Greg concludes:

I'm starting to get the sneaking suspicion that these people would prefer that Obama didn't use such language, and are repeating this claim again and again in hopes of making it so.

At this point, they don't care what Obama actually does, because it doesn't matter -- they've said often enough that his belief in exceptionalism is insufficient, so now they actually have made it so. And if they've made it so for 50% of the American electorate plus one, they've won.

(Tweaked somewhat to omit a chronology error.)

You may know that Alvin Felzenberg has written a U.S. News blog post that accuses President Obama of plagiarism in the State of the Union address, a post that's delighted the usual Obama-haters on the right:

... Had the president submitted the text of his second State of the Union Address in the form of a college term paper, he would have been sent forthwith to the nearest academic dean....

Early in his address, Obama said that he wanted the nation he leads to be a "light to the world." The last president who set such a mission for the nation he led, and in those exact words, was Woodrow Wilson.

Um, here's part of President George W. Bush's proclamation of Law Day 2008:

Through hard work and dedication to the rule of law, members of the judiciary and the legal profession help secure the rights of individuals, bring justice to our communities, and reinforce the proud traditions that make America a beacon of light for the world.

(Hey, Bush said "for," not "to"! So it's totally original!)


...In an address to the Heritage Foundation in the early 1990, Margaret Thatcher delivered what might go down as the most memorable line in Obama’s second State of the Union address. The British Prime Minister told her American audience that the United States was the "first nation to have been founded on an idea." It took the president a few additional words to get this idea across.

Yeah, it's really appalling to steal that and not give credit for it. How dare you, John Boehner, in your address the American Legion convention last September!

Never forget that America remains the only nation on the face of the Earth founded on an idea, not an identity – an idea that free people can govern themselves, and that government’s powers are endowed only through the consent of the governed.

And how original was Thatcher, anyway? Check out what this guy found:

Google Books
Civic Reader for New Americans
New York, NY: American Book Company
Pg. 63:
We said the United States was founded on an idea. What is that idea? It is the idea of freedom.

...Google Books
May 1941,
The Survey (Survey Associates, Charity Organization Society of the City of New York), pg. 139:
You cannot say too often that the United States is a nation founded on an idea, and that’s what makes it unique; not on blood ties or old customs, but on an idea. The preservation of that idea, republican democracy, is the only form of unity America has known. — Alistair Cooke in
The Listener (London)....

There are several more of these at the link. (I bet Thatcher nicked if from Alastair Cooke.)

And, really, are we supposed to assume that this is unique to Obama? George W. Bush talked incessantly of the "ownership society" -- as he put it in a 2003 speech, "We are increasingly a nation of owners." What did Lech Walesa say in 1990?

Poland should become a nation of owners. Everyone can and should become an owner of a part of the nation's property, part of our homeland.

That was also a phrase used by the privatization-inclined Chilean labor misister, Jose Pinera, in the 1990s ("We have made a nation of owners"). And trust me, the folks around Bush knew of Pinera, because he'd been instrumental in privatizing Chilean Social Security. (Pinera is now a Cato Institute Policy Scholar.)

And has it been noted that another favorite phrase of Bush's -- "freedom agenda" -- was also the name of a 1950s organization founded by the League of Women Voters to promote democratic principles in America, Europe, and Asia?

Enough. We could play this game all day. Let's drop it.


Oh, but first one more: You know that Paul Ryan line about not letting the social safety net become a hammock? That was stolen from John Stossel! No, it was stolen from former Massachusetts governor William Weld! No, Jesse Ventura! No, Mona Charen! No ...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

(updated with a lot of Palin nonsense)

"Obama Stole His SOTU Slogan from Newt Gingrich," reads a headline at Fox Nation. FN is quoting a post that's far less inflammatory from The Washington Post's political-book blogger, Stephen Lowman, who notes that a recurring phrase in the State of the Union address, "winning the future," was the title of a 2005 book by Newt Gingrich.

"To Win the Future" was the title of the 1992 inaugural address of Philippine president Fidel Ramos. "Australia's Task: To Win the Future" was the title of a speech by opposition leader Bob Hawke at the Sydney Opera House in February 1983. In 1991, Colin Powell wrote a letter to some Bronx schoolkids that urged them, "work hard and prepare yourselves to win the future." "Winning the Future" was the title of Michigan governor James Blanchard's 1987 State of the State message. And here's a 1941 article about the Atlantic Charter titled "Words Won't Win the Future."

Do I really need to go on with this? No, President Obama didn't coin this phrase. But neither did Newt.


UPDATE, THURSDAY: In the immediate of the State of the Union, Sarah Palin didn't say much, in any medium, and a lot of people were wondering whether her recent poorly received forays into the public arena had made her reconsider her standard approach to attention-getting. Not to worry -- she's back, and her long day or so of silence can apparently be attributed to the fact that it apparently took her and her writers an entire day to come up with this:

Former Alaska GOP Gov. Sarah Palin said Wednesday night that President Barack Obama's call for “winning the future” during his State of the Union address is best framed by the acronym it shares with a much different phrase -- "wtf."

"That was a tough speech to sit through and try to stomach," Palin said during an interview with Fox News's Greta Van Susteren.

"His theme last night was wtf, winning the future," she continued. "I thought, okay, that acronym -- spot on. There were a lot of wtf moments throughout that speech."

Palin, seemingly pleased with her joke, repeated the line later in the interview while poking Obama for referencing Sputnik in another section of his address.

"That was another wtf moment," she said....

Sarah, how dare you insult Fidel Ramos and Governor James Blanchard that way!

This is sure to be followed by the usual tut-tutting about Palin's lack of "gravitas" and how it ought to compel her not to seek the presidency. But, as I said yesterday, the search for gotchas that will rally voters is the entire purpose of the GOP these days -- it's all campaigning and demonizing of the opposition, never governing. Isn't Palin just doing that in the most, um, elemental way? Saying "WTF! WTF! Ha-ha-ha! Your stupid slogan is WTF!" isn't as subtle as Paul Ryan prattling on earnestly for eleven minutes about "limited government" without ever offering a detailed policy proposal, but it's the same thing at a different tone level -- soundbite-slinging as an end in itself, not as a means to try to advance and ultimately enact actual policy ideas. Palin is just more obvious about the fact that her sole interest is campaigning and winning, not governing.


And as for Palin's assertion, at another point in the Van Susteren interview, that what America needs is not a "Sputnik moment" but a "Spudnut moment" ... well, I'm speechless. It's a word I'd never encountered until now, but I gather Palin's talking about entrepreneurialism, because Spudnut is the name of a chain of doughnut shops.

A chain about which Wikipedia tells us:

By 1948, over 200 Spudnut Shops had sprung up across the country. Spudnuts were advertised widely, with the slogan "Coast to coast...Alaska to Mexico". The cartoon character "Mr. Spudnut" frequently appeared in ads, restaurants, and even in parades.

By the 1980s, however, the parent company closed, leaving all the franchisees to fend for themselves. The Spudnuts brand lost significant popularity, but it did not disappear completely; some 35 Spudnut Shops in 9 states exist today.



OH, AND: One more thing about Palin.

Sarah Palin thinks President Barack Obama needs a history lesson on the space race between the U.S. and the former Soviet Union.

"He needs to remember that, uh, what happened back then with the communist U.S.S.R. and their victory in that race to space," the Fox News contributor said Wednesday night, reacting to Obama's reference to Sputnik in his State of the Union speech....

"Yeah, they won but they also incurred so much debt at the time that it resulted in the inevitable collapse of the Soviet Union," Palin said.

Not quite. Yes, the Soviet Union won many of the early contests in the space race (including putting the first man in orbit, which may have been what Palin meant by "race to space"). But it was the U.S. that walked away with the biggest trophy in the space race when it put a man on the moon.

While the Soviet Union did eventually collapse, that wasn't until 1991 -- a full 22 years after the U.S. put a man on the moon, and the collapse came amid stagnant economic growth after years of unsustainable Soviet defense spending of which its space program was a relatively small part....

What's interesting to me about this is that Palin has now imbibed so much anti-government-spending Kool-Aid that she's arguing against government space programs -- which means that, by implication, she's saying the American government shouldn't have developed a space program. This is where right-wing rhetoric leads now? I'm hardly a big advocate of space exploration, but I thought all this time that was because I was a frou-frou, non-macho Eastern liberal elitist who hated America and its manly exploratory triumphs. Now it turns out I was a teabagger all along?

I'd love to watch Palin time-travel back to 1961 and try to argue that we shouldn't go to the moon because the Framers believed in limited government. That would be profoundly entertaining.

Frances Fox Piven, the elderly academic who's become one of Glenn Beck's Antichrists, can't seem to inspire the popular progressive protests she admires, but Beck has succeeding in inspiring quite a few right-wingers to want to kill her. I guess I'm glad that Barbara Ehrenreich is writing about that in an L.A. Times editorial, but I think Ehrenreich is misreading the political landscape:

Why are Americans such wusses? Threaten the Greeks with job losses and benefit cuts and they tie up Athens, but take away Americans' jobs, 401(k)s, even their homes, and they pretty much roll over....

The question has been raised many times in the last few years ... but when the eminent social scientist Frances Fox Piven brought it up at the end of December in an essay titled "Mobilizing the Jobless," all hell broke loose. An editor of Glenn Beck's website,, posted a piece sporting the specious headline "Frances Fox Piven Rings in the New Year by Calling for Violent Revolution," and, just two weeks before the Tucson shootings, the death threats started flying.

...So perhaps economically hard-pressed Americans aren't wusses after all. They may not have the courage or the know-how to organize a protest at the local unemployment office, which is the kind of action Piven urged in her December essay, but they stand ready to shoot the first 78-year-old social scientist who suggests that they do so.

... at least part of the explanation is guns themselves -- or, more specifically, the recent and uniquely American addiction to high-powered personal weaponry.... As Joan Burbick, author of the 2006 book, "Gun Show Nation: Gun Culture and American Democracy," has observed, "The act of buying a gun can mimic political action. It makes people feel as if they are engaging in politics of political protest." She quotes one gun enthusiast: "Whenever I get mad at the government, I go out and buy a gun." Jobless and overwhelmed by bills? Hunker down in the basement and polish your Glock....

Ehrenreich seems to have overlooked one obvious fact: some Americans have taken to the streets in the last couple of years with great frequency. Those Americans are right-wing Americans. It's only lefties who've wussed out -- we don't protest and we don't arm ourselves. Right-wingers do both.

The tea party types who've demonstrated in the past two years, at congressional town halls and in public spaces, haven't refrained from protesting at banks and fat cats' houses because they're wusses -- they've done so because they don't think those are the enemies. It's only the people who can correctly identify the enemies of ordinary citizens who are afraid to protest.


Elsewhere on the gun front, there's this in today's New York Times:

In the wake of the shootings in Tucson, the familiar questions inevitably resurfaced: Are communities where more people carry guns safer or less safe? Does the availability of high-capacity magazines increase deaths? Do more rigorous background checks make a difference?

The reality is that even these and other basic questions cannot be fully answered, because not enough research has been done. And there is a reason for that. Scientists in the field and former officials with the government agency that used to finance the great bulk of this research say the influence of the National Rife Association has all but choked off money for such work....

The amount of money available today for studying the impact of firearms is a fraction of what it was in the mid-1990s, and the number of scientists toiling in the field has dwindled to just a handful as a result, researchers say....

In 1996, Representative Jay Dickey, Republican of Arkansas, succeeded in pushing through an amendment that stripped $2.6 million from the disease control centers' budget, the very amount it had spent on firearms-related research the year before....

You can go to the story to read the details. Suffice to say, it's clear that the NRA made demands and -- as usual -- got exactly what it wanted.

I'm refraining from calling this a sort of one-issue fascism, but, well, what do fascists do? They intimidate political enemies -- as does the NRA. They shut down media dissent -- as does the NRA. The word isn't entirely inappropriate.


I suppose the way to tie these loose ends together is to quote a recent editorial from Esquire:

Since 1964, the respectable members of the national Republican party made a conscious choice to ally themselves with the remnants of American apartheid. Throughout the 1980s, conservatives in the South and West played footsie with dangerous, armed militia groups. There is an armed terrorist wing of the anti-choice movement that, to our knowledge, has not given the politicians allied with that movement a single moment's pause to reconsider their support for it. During the firestorm surrounding the prolonged death of Terri Schiavo, people came right up to the edge of threatening federal judges on the floor of the Congress, and this not long after a rightist gunman murdered the spouse of a federal judge on his doorstep.

... The country-club set allied itself for the purpose of gaining and maintaining political power with people whose idea of political violence is slightly more than theoretical, egged on by an exaltation of vicious clowns on the radio and television, and to have heard them all defend the open brandishing of firearms at political rallies last summer was to have heard clearly the warning.

..."We don't have guns, but we know people who do."

Do the rich really use the gun-rights crowd as an army of intimidation? I don't know if it's that simple, but it's curious how it all works. The people who love the fat cats are the people who protest and threaten gun violence -- and it's all neatly tied together in the realm of "mainstream" Republican politics, isn't it?

Ross Douthat is upset that neither President Obama nor Congressman Paul Ryan offered concrete plans for dealing with what Douthat calls "the looming insolvency of our entitlement system," which (Douthat says) "lies at the heart of the economic challenges facing the United States over the next two decades":

It's clear that both parties have decided that a period of divided government twelve months before a presidential election is the wrong time to make big moves on entitlements and the deficit. Better to wait, jockey for position, and hope that the correlation of forces after 2012 will be more favorable to their preferred solutions. And it's clear, too, that they've decided ... that it's too risky to even begin building support for the unpopular cuts or tax increases ahead. The bet, on both sides, is that there's still time to work with, and that the other party will blink, or at least give ground, before the real crunch arrives.

I don't believe that's the bet on the GOP side.

First of all, on the GOP side, it's always campaign season -- at the rare moments when Republicans aren't 100% obsessed with the next election, they're 100% obsessed with using the tools of propaganda to score points against Democrats. It's a permanent campaign. It's generally agreed that Fox News and talk radio are the propaganda wings of the Republican Party, but more and more it seems that Fox, talk radio, and the party are all in the same business -- the party doesn't exist to do the work of governing any more than the media outlets do; they all exist just to sell the brand. The Republican Party is now an entity whose sole purpose is to sell Republicanism.

Oh, sure, Republicans cut taxes occasionally, and line cronies' pockets, and start the occasional war. But except for the pocket-lining part (which includes preventing tax increases on the rich and regulatory increases on big business), everything they do is about selling themselves to the voters of Heartland America, while hoping that real problems don't ever emerge or become unmanageable (unless, like 9/11, they can be gamed to Republicans' political advantage).

This is somewhat contrary to what a lot of lefties think, but I don't really believe anymore that Republicans want to gut government in a Randian, draconian way. I think they feel about government-gutting the way they seem to feel about fully criminalizing abortion: yeah, maybe we'll get to that someday, but meanwhile just talking about it really brings in the rubes. I actually think Obama and the Democrats are far more in earnest about dealing with deficits and debt (and, yes, that scares me, though Obama's refusal to go full-on deficit hawk last night was mildly reassuring). More and more I'm starting to wonder whether many in the GOP half-hope that Obama wins reelection in 2012, so that if anyone tackles this problem, and gets the blame for drastic cuts, it won't be Republicans.

Really, Kevin Drum? You really believe this about the State of the Union address?

With only a very few exceptions that were passed over pretty quickly (healthcare reform is great, student loan reform is great), there was almost literally nothing in there that couldn't have been in a George W. Bush speech.... And even if you grant that "invest" is just another word for "spend," he was mostly talking about the kind of spending the Republicans could, in theory, go along with.

Republicans now could go along with it? That's absurd. And while it may be true that a lot of what Obama said could have been in a speech from the Bush presidency, it couldn't be in a Bush speech today -- not if Bush was hoping to win reelection to some office in the future. He'd almost certainly have to repudiate TARP, deny global climate change, and abandon any approach to immigration that doesn't begin and end with rounding 'em all up and deporting 'em, while sealing the borders. He'd surely argue that Keynesianism is exactly the wrong approach to economic downturns, the correct approach being (of course) tax cuts and less regulation. As far to the right as Bush was, he'd have to tack further to the right if he wanted to keep up with the modern GOP. He'd have to tack as fast as John McCain did in the 2010 campaign.

I watched both the Michele Bachmann tea party response and the Paul Ryan party-sanctioned Republican response, and what struck me was that the Ryan response was almost exactly as teabaggy as Bachmann's. In fact, maybe more so -- he referred to "limited government" six times in an eleven-minute speech (and threw in a seventh "limited" -- "We believe government's role is both vital and limited" -- in case you didn't get the message). He linked this to "the wisdom of the founders ... the spirit of the Declaration of Independence; and ... the words of the American Constitution," like a good teabagger. He blamed "our leaders" and "Washington" for the financial crisis before blaming "Wall Street" (clearly a nod and wink to those who believe that Barney Frank and Fannie and Freddie and the Community Reinvestment Act deserve most, if not all, the blame. And he praised "sound money" -- hello, Ron Paul fans.

This is the official GOP line. Obama may sound like a Republican to Kevin Drum, but modern Republicans sound like Republicans cranked up to 11, or 22, or 99. They can't agree to any kind of non-military spending increases "in theory." It's not allowed.


An oddly similar sentiment to Drum's, from Ben Stein:

There were only a few glimpses of Obama the "intellectual" socialist on display tonight. Mostly, his speech sounded as if it could have been given by any 1958 Republican elementary school student.

Hey, the Republican we had as president in 1958 presided over massive infrastructure spending and a top marginal tax rate of 91% on the last few dollars earned by the superrich. I'd take that.


By the way, I'm not even going to get into Stein's racist critique of the passages on education in Obama's speech. Stein says,

When Mr. Obama says he's going to reform American education by setting higher standards, he is just baying at the moon. Most of the nation's public school pupils are not achieving at even close to the rates of the students in other advanced nations. The problem is intensely concentrated among the nonwhite students of this nation.

I'll just direct you to this Atlantic article, which makes clear that this is utter bollocks.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


Michele Malkin, October 12, 2010:

In a different day and age, Jeff Hart would be the most famous American in our country right now. He would be honored at the White House. Schoolchildren would learn of his skill and heroism. But because Jeff Hart works in an industry under fire by the Obama administration, more people in Chile will celebrate this symbol of American greatness than in America itself.

Jeff Hart is a driller based in my home state of Colorado. The father of two has been drilling water wells in Afghanistan at U.S. Army bases. When the San Jose Mine in Chile collapsed in August, he flew to lend his renowned expertise to the rescue effort. As part of an amazing three-way race to the trapped miners, Hart drilled for 33 days straight and was first to reach the caved-in workers....

Malkin's point was that President Obama -- that despiser of capitalism in general, and of mining in particular -- would never celebrate efforts to rescue the trapped Chileans on the part of any private citizen who worked in that field.

In fact, Obama welcomed Hart to the White House on October 28, along with many of the others who helped rescue the Chileans. And tonight, the last citizen mentioned by name in Obama's State of the Union address was one of those rescuers from the mine industry, who was one of Obama's honored guests tonight:

... That dream -– that American Dream -– ... is the story of a small business owner named Brandon Fisher.

Brandon started a company in Berlin, Pennsylvania, that specializes in a new kind of drilling technology. And one day last summer, he saw the news that halfway across the world, 33 men were trapped in a Chilean mine, and no one knew how to save them.

But Brandon thought his company could help. And so he designed a rescue that would come to be known as Plan B. His employees worked around the clock to manufacture the necessary drilling equipment. And Brandon left for Chile.

Along with others, he began drilling a 2,000-foot hole into the ground, working three- or four-hour — three or four days at a time without any sleep. Thirty-seven days later, Plan B succeeded, and the miners were rescued. (Applause.) But because he didn't want all of the attention, Brandon wasn’t there when the miners emerged. He'd already gone back home, back to work on his next project.

And later, one of his employees said of the rescue, "We proved that Center Rock is a little company, but we do big things." (Applause.)

We do big things....

Malkin has never acknowledged that she was wrong about Obama's attitude toward the rescuers from the mining industry. Think she'll admit she was wrong now?

Me either.

Awwww, isn't this inspiring and heartwarming?

Religious Right Meets Religious Left: Two Evangelical Christians Urge Civility

Two icons of the Christian right and Christian left, Chuck Colson and Jim Wallis, have penned a joint statement that calls on the nation to "re-examine the tone and character of our public debate" in the wake of the Tucson shootings and says that believers "should lead by example."

Colson, a political conservative who became active in prison ministry after doing jail time for crimes related to his work in the Nixon White House, and Wallis, who has emerged as a leader of the so-called Religious left, write that "no act of incivility can be blamed for the profoundly evil shooting" of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 18 others, six of whom died.

But they say that "we should not lose this moment for moral reflection and renewal. We must re-examine the tone and character of our public debate, because solving the enormous problems we face as a nation will require that we work for a more civil public square." ...

Chuck Colson? Let's see, ... how has he led by example and elevated the tone in our recent political discourse?

By comparing anti-Proposition 8 demonstrators to Nazi brownshirts and Bull Connor?

When I watched the violence on television, memories came back of earlier generations of thugs: Bull Conner, who, with the help of brutal cops, used violence and intimidation to chase African Americans out of the public square. Or roving gangs of Nazi brownshirts who ruled the streets of Germany during Hitler’s rise to power. Do opponents of Proposition 8 who attacked Mormons and their churches think they’re any better than Bull Conner, or nicer than Nazi thugs? I don’t.

By declaring that he worked on the anti-gay marriage "Manhattan Declaration" because the current fight against gay marriage reminds him of the fight against Nazism during the rise of Hitler?

Well, the church couldn't stand together in the face of Hitler, that's why they wrote the Barmen Declaration, to get the true believers separated from the non-believers. But the true believers made a strong stand and it cost them dearly. And I think the time has come in America where we don't have any choice but to take this stand.

By saying this about the proposed Islamic cultural center in Lower Manhattan?

[I]t would not be an act of intolerance to deny the construction of a mosque at a certain location -- particularly one, ground zero, where the mosque will serve as a daily reminder to New Yorkers of the terrorists, who, motivated by their Islamo-fascist beliefs, killed 3,000 innocent people in the name of Islam.

Go build the mosque somewhere else.

By linking gay marriage to terrorism in 2008?

We must be careful not to blame innocent Americans for murderous attacks against them. At the same time, let's acknowledge that America's increasing decadence is giving aid and comfort to the enemy. When we tolerate trash on television, permit pornography to invade our homes via the internet, and allow babies to be killed at the point of birth, we are inflaming radical Islam.

Radical Islamists were surely watching in July when the Senate voted on procedural grounds to do away with the Federal Marriage Amendment. This is like handing moral weapons of mass destruction to those who use America's decadence to recruit more snipers and hijackers and suicide bombers.

Civil talk, Chuck? You first.
(and get even more coverage)

Steve Benen has concerns about the fact that there'll be two Republican responses to the State of the Union address, an official one from Paul Ryan and another from Michele Bachmann on the Tea Party Express Web site, especially now that the latter is also going to be broadcast on CNN:

... I'm a little surprised CNN would agree to this, just as a matter of fairness -- viewers will hear one speech from a Democrat, followed by a speech by a far-right Republican, and then followed by another speech by a far-right Republican? If a liberal Dem announced this morning that he/she is delivering some remarks reflecting on the SOTU tonight, would that also be aired on CNN's national airwaves in its entirety?

For that matter, I can only hope that Paul Ryan isn't positioned as the "middle" -- literally and figuratively -- between the president and Bachman. The Ayn Rand acolyte is, after all, a hard-core radical, intent on destroying Medicare and Social Security. Bachmann's wild-eyed craziness shouldn't make Ryan appear reasonable by comparison, but it might.

I'm more worried that they'll both appear reasonable to most Americans, or at least seem easily dismissable.

Bachmann, of course, has the greater potential to say something crazy and memorable; it's nice to see that Eric Cantor is nervous and defensive when asked about her response. (That's the reason I wish everybody were retransmitting her speech, not just CNN.)

But I bet she won't talk as long as the president does. And I bet she'll just limit herself to generalized expressions of concern about "socialism" and praise of "freedom" and "liberty" and the Founders. I bet she'll invoke God. I bet she'll say that abortion is bad. I bet she'll say the health care law is the worst law ever.

In other words, I bet she'll give a speech a thousand other Republicans could give, and have given.

And so the swing voters who hear her but don't know anything about her will just shrug. They won't think she's crazy or extreme at all.

I want her to go into detail. I want a lengthy laundry list of proposals from her -- a list as long as Obama's will be. I want America to hear Michele Bachman's plan for saving America in detail, whatever it is.

And the same for Ryan -- as I said this morning, I assume he's just going to speak in generalities about how dreadful spending is. He's not going to go into details about his Robin-Hood-in-reverse, social-safety-net-destroying "road map." I want him to have an hour to fill, and to fill it with his proposals. But that's not the plan. The plan is for him to say "Spending is bad! Obama is wrong!" and then exit stage right.

I say let 'em talk. Too bad that won't happen.


For what it's worth, I actually believe Bachmann when she says she's not trying to compete with Ryan. I see Bachmann and her tea party pals as something like an extreme, hyperpurist, overtly pro-fascist, pro-mortification-of-the-flesh secret society within the Catholic Church -- it's not as if they're against the mainstream leadership (at least so long as the leaders let them do what they want). They just feel they have to set standards of extreme purity, that's all. It sure would be nice if the mainstream leaders followed their example -- but, well, the flesh is weak, and not everyone can endure such exacting demands. The important thing is that the mainstream leadership absolutely shouldn't try to stand in their way. They won't go quietly.

I think Tim Pawlenty put out the Tim Pawlenty action-movie ad because he now realizes what a horrible mistake it was to publish a book that tries to sell him as America's next Republican Daddy while revealing on the front cover what he actually looks like:

Sales of the book have been abysmal -- so now he releases a video in which resolute action takes center stage ... and you never really get a clear shot of him, in all his schlubby glory:

Two takeaways from the content of the ad:

I'm only now learning that Americans were the ones who took sledgehammers to the Berlin Wall. All this time I thought it was the Germans. Damn liberal media!

And all my envy of the Greatest Generation is now gone, because I now realize that Iwo Jima and the 1980 Olympic hockey victory were morally equivalent.

Lowry, in the New York Post:

President Obama hopes to be saved by a euphemism.

He is wagering on the power of the word "investment." It sounds so market oriented and cutting edge in contrast to its more pedestrian, politically fraught synonym, "spending," especially the toxic "deficit spending" that, to this point, has defined Obama's presidency.

The focus on "investment" is nothing new. Obama already had leaned heavily on one of the hoariest Democratic tropes. When he signed the stimulus bill in February 2009, he used the word "invest" or "investment" 15 times in a 2,000-word speech. A casual listener might have been hard-pressed to understand that any new government spending was involved at all, what with all the "critical investments," including "the largest new investment in our nation's infrastructure since Eisenhower" and "the largest investment in education in our nation's history." ...

Obviously, my opinion on the stimulus is 180 degrees different from Lowry's -- it didn't work because we needed more of it.

But from what I gather, Lowry is right about Obama's sense that this word can help persuade voters that the few programs for which the president would like to see increases in spending wouldn't see increases in, well, spending. I don't blame the Obamaites for wanting to argue in that way. (A good government program is an investment in America's future.) I just think it's a misreading of how ordinary voters think.

The problem Democrats have in explaining deficit spending in recessions is that ordinary people's experience is actually much closer to GOP rhetoric than to Keynesian rhetoric. When an ordinary American gets into economic trouble, the problem is: I'm spending too much. I'm spending more than I'm taking in. I need to spend less.

Democratic officeholders (and the pundits who admire them) tend to be brainiacs and wonks -- they understand why you sometimes have to spend more money precisely when you have less, but they don't understand that the public doesn't understand it. So they don't explain it in terms that make ordinary people.

The word "investment" doesn't do the job. Ordinary Americans don't "invest," or if they do, they're investing for retirement -- something they stop doing when they're broke. They don't invest the way businesses invest. And they don't think of government as like a business -- they think of it as like a person, or a family. (After a while, goaded by Republicans, they think of it as like a deadbeat relative that keeps asking for money. This is especially true when the anti-recessionary government programs don't seem to work, as they haven't seemed to, to most ordinary Americans, in the past two years.)

Obama might get somewhere if he did something a bit ridiculous in the speech tonight: if, instead of saying he wants to increase "investment" in some worthy programs, he talked about "retraining" America.

No, strike that -- it wouldn't work; it would be pilloried by the right as fascist master Obama ordering America to be his submissive slave.

But "retraining" is a word ordinary Americans actually understand. People who lose jobs in dying industries go through retraining all the time, to learn job skills for new fields, and sometimes it works. It would remind people that sometimes they think it actually makes sense to spend money while going through a rough economic patch -- you do it when there's a clear payoff. Ordinary people might rerspond to something like that. But not "investment."


I watched Rachel Maddow last night and I thought she was naive to argue that Paul Ryan will be offputting as the GOP's official State of the Union responder tonight because his budget "road map" includes draconian cuts to cherished programs such as Medicare and Social Security. Wonks and brainiacs will know that as they watch him. Ordinary Americans won't. And he's bloody well not going to mention any of that. He's just going to talk in generalities. He's going to rail against the White House's "spending binge." And his buzzword -- spending, spending, spending -- is, alas, going to resonate. Voters don't like spending -- until you get down to specifics. Then they rally to offer support for programs they like. But Ryan won't let it get that far. He's just going talk about spending in the abstract. And it will sound bad. And investment won't sound all that good.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Whatever you think were the reasons that the Tucson shootings happened, your theory is almost certainly more plausible than this one:

Arizona GOPer: Roe v. Wade Contributed To Tucson Shootings

Arizona State Sen. Linda Gray (R) argued over the weekend that gun control is not the way to prevent another shooting like the one in Tucson. The real answer, she said when asked about preventing such a shooting in the future, is to better "respect the life of an unborn."

... Politico's Ben Smith reports that Gray did an interview Sunday on George Washington University Radio's "Political Pulse," and said:
So now we have this generation of people who have that idea and it continues on, that why respect life if we can kill an infant who can't defend themselves. It goes back to the value in the creation of life and the respect for that life and if your not trained and have that type of character in realizing that all human life deserves respect this is what our country has come to....

This is a bizarre theory, but it isn't an original one. Brian Rohrbough, the father of one of the victims of the Columbine massacre, became well known in anti-abortion circles for arguing that legal abortion helped make Columbine possible. He insisted that a memorial to his son near the site of the massacre bear the following inscription:

Dad, I have a question. Why?

My son in a Nation that legalized the killing of innocent children in the womb; in a County where authorities would lie and cover up what they knew and what they did; in a Godless school system your life was taken ... Dan I'm sorry.

I love you dad I'll see you tomorrow.

7:00 p.m., April 19, 1999.

There is no peace, says the Lord, for the wicked.

He subsequently became president of Colorado Right to Life and the founder of American Right to Life, as well as Alan Keyes's running mate in the 2008 presidential campaign. Oh, and Katie Couric turned to him for commentary for her evening news broadcast in October 2006, after a series of school shootings. He said:

This country is in a moral free-fall. For over two generations, the public school system has taught in a moral vacuum, expelling God from the school and from the government, replacing him with evolution, where the strong kill the weak, without moral consequences and life has no inherent value.

We teach there are no absolutes, no right or wrong. And I assure you the murder of innocent children is always wrong, including by abortion. Abortion has diminished the value of children.

Suicide has become an acceptable action and has further emboldened these criminals. And we are seeing an epidemic increase in murder-suicide attacks on our children.

Sadly, our schools are not safe. In fact, we now witness that within our schools. Our children have become a target of terrorists from within the United States.

So Linda Gray is just repurposing and remixing his argument that secular public schools, evolution, and legal abortion drive mass murderers to murder.

Keith Olbermann jumped, or was pushed, on Friday, just as Comcast was taking control of NBC and MSNBC. In a less-noticed development the day before, Brian Williams devoted a whopping nine minutes of the half-hour NBC Nightly News to a pointless exercise in mutual self-congratulation -- you could substitute a less polite way of saying that -- that took place at the George Bush School of Government and Public Service in College Station, Texas: a reunion of the members of the Poppy Bush administration who participated in the planning of the first Gulf War, on the twentieth anniversary of its beginning.

Was this news? At all? Williams sure treated it as if it was news -- huge news. Watch as much as you can stand:

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

There's a forty-minute version as well, if you're a glutton for punishment.

Excerpts from this interview appeared on the Nightly News, on the Today show, and on Dateline. Why? What the hell makes this worth all that airtime? It's just a bunch of old bastards sitting around talking about how right they were to launch the war they launched and end it the way they ended it.

I can't help wondering if this happened after a gentle nudge from the new corporate overlords at NBC, hoping for a bit more conservative-friendly content. The timing, like the timing of the Olbermann departure, is curious.

I'm reminded of this because I see that Williams will co-moderate (with Politico's John Harris) the first GOP presidential debate for 2012 -- the one at the Reagan Library. Someone from NBC was going to get that gig no matter what -- NBC and Politico are sponsoring it, and the last time around the moderators were Harris and Chris Matthews. But Matthews is now seen as part of the evil gang of commie antichrists at MSNBC (back in 2007, when the last debate took place, he was a guy who could be counted on to make sexist cracks about the seemingly inevitable Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton). We'll see how gentle Williams is on the assembled pack of crazies at the debate this time. Meanwhile, his hyping of this pointless event was almost unbearable.